Houston Rockets 106, Miami Heat 103 – Statement Made

Let’s get one thing straight – this was not the Heat of last year’s finals. This was the inconsistent Heat of 2014, coming off a back-to-back where their best player had exhausted himself in historic fashion the night before. But nevertheless, they are the current NBA champions and victories against them are rare. More impressive was that this was as comprehensive a three point victory as you’ll ever see. The Rockets never trailed all game, and whenever the two starting units were matched up against each other the Rockets seemed to have a clear edge. The raucous home crowd and the antics of Patrick Beverley spurred them on to one of the year’s better wins. LeBron had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but his long three over an outstretched Howard clanked off the rim and left the Rockets with the win.

Patrick Beverley was everywhere tonight. He made three 3 pointers in a row to start the game and never looked back. In one particularly memorable sequence, he blocked a lay-up, then stole the ball, then managed to draw a foul while diving out of bounds to save an errant pass from Parsons. In another, he picked up LeBron (!) on the perimeter, hounded him into a tough shot, then leaked out for an easy lay-in. His final line of 19 points (5-8 from three), 2 assists, 3 steals doesn’t immediately jump out of the page, but it was one of the best games he has played all year and his talismanic play lifted the rest of the team to new heights.

What was surprising about the majority of the game was that when the starters were matched up the Rockets came out well on top. The +/- tells the story – all of the Rockets starters were in double figures positive, and all the Heat starters were double figures in the negative except for Wade. They got contributions from every position – Dwight was scoring in the post against Bosh, Beverley was hot from the outside, and Terrence Jones cleaned up numerous situations around the rim. The Heat did try to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands, but he made them pay for it by registering 11 assists to go along with 21 points.

 

There were only two reasons why the Heat were able to hang around in this game – the bench and the break. The Rockets bench has been in a slump in recent times, and they were thoroughly routed by the Heat’s bench mob tonight to the tune of 47-15. After a huge 39 point first quarter, the second quarter saw the second unit go into a deep offensive funk in which they only scored two points in a six minute span. I think part of the problem lies in the team still acclimatising to Asik’s return. Last year proved that you can still have an effective offence with him on the court, but you have to adjust your sets to give him the kind of looks that he is capable of finishing. Unfortunately with 4 months to get used to the luxury of Howard’s finish prowess the team doesn’t seem to have the sets or the passing acumen to use Omer properly, and the result is essentially a 4-on-5 offensively. Lin’s slump continues – we know his game well enough now to know that it is likely only to be a temporary problem, but while he’s not playing well it really hurts the team’s effectiveness when the backups are on the court. He struggled to get any penetration towards the basket tonight, and without that the team couldn’t generate anything good in the half court.

The other problem was the fast break. The Heat are automatic in transition – if the ball is in LeBron or Wade’s hands, they will score. In the first half, the Heat were  pushing the ball off misses and profiting from live ball turnovers. Both contrived to fuel their fast-break game, so much so that by half-time they had amassed an 18-0 lead in fast break points. However, the Rockets were able to tighten up their transition defence in the second half (and the Heat seemed too fatigued to keep the pace up) and reverse this trend. In the second half they came back to score 16 of their own and redress the balance somewhat. These are two areas (keeping the turnovers down, getting back in transition) that the Rockets have historically been poor at, so it was encouraging to see them be able to tighten the screw slightly.

A couple of other thoughts:

  • I thought the Rockets’ rotations looked really crisp and impressive tonight. Several times I noticed them send a double team at LeBron in the post and then get everyone back to their man to deny an open three point shot. Perhaps it was a point of emphasis in the days they had to prepare. Whatever the reason, the extra effort really made a difference as they were able to keep the Heat’s three point shooters under wraps. It took a late explosion from Marcus Beasley (4-7 from three) to bring their 3pt% up to a measly 25.7%.
  • Having Hamilton on the roster has made a small but significant change to McHale’s rotation. For most of the season he has run with a three man guard rotation, but Hamilton has the foot speed to guard the shooting guard position and this has changed things for the better. The new structure features a 5 man guard/wing rotation, picking three out of Beverley, Lin, Harden, Hamilton and Parsons. This is useful because it gives the team more options when facing opponents with good players at the 2 guard. Tonight was one such night, and while Wade is wily enough to cause anyone problems I thought Hamilton did a really good job of making life difficult for him when the two were matched up.

 

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Total comments: 9
  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    Spoelstra mentioned he was going to sit Lebron after the 3Q of the Charlotte game. He should have since they were already up so much.Got to keep their eyes on the big prize.

  • txtdo1411 says 6 months ago

    Congrats to the Rockets! A wire to wire victory against the hottest team in the league. Can't be disappointed with that. Also congrats on Lebron and the Heat for being the first team in NBA history to play a back-to-back game. I give them a lot of credit for really gutting it out against the Rockets after such a hard fought double OT game against the Pacers... oh wait it was a 17 point victory against the Bobcats?? Sounds so tiring...

    In all seriousness though we just beat the hottest (or 2nd hottest ;)) team in the league, and in pretty dominating fashion. Miami's bench showed up, and were really the only reason this was as close as it was. Even then we should have easily had the game if it weren't for missed FTs, and a bonehead play by Harden (live and learn young one!). I can not believe how many Rockets fans are skeptical about this win just because they were on a B2B. They are the best team in the league! They have been to 3 straight finals! They have the best player on the planet! Every team in the league plays back to back games... it is the nature of the league. Miami last year was 15-1 last year on the second night of b2bs. I for one am as happy as I have been in a while, because I witnessed the Rockets outfight the Heat last night. We hustled, played as a team, and made everything difficult for the Heat (except for the points of turnovers). It wasn't our prettiest game by any means, but it was oh so encouraging. I really hope we come out ready to play against Orlando. But we are on the second night of a back to back, and given all that I've read today, pretty much every team loses after playing a game the night before. Go Rockets!!!

    Also I love Beverely to death, but he has got to be making his way up to one of the most hated players in the league. Well he has to become more nationally relevant to hold that title, but he is just such a pest. He is a player I would hate if he were on another team, but goodness it is so awesome to have playing for the good guys!

  • thejohnnygold says 6 months ago

    I really enjoyed the game. Lots of intensity. Everybody chipped in--even the guys who couldn't make their shots. Speaking of, check out the shot chart from the game:

    RMDzevT.jpg

    Check out the mid-range! Those were pretty much all Harden and Parsons.

    Also, kudos to Beverley for a great game and a GREAT pass on the break to Parsons (if memory serves). The ball seemed to pass directly through 2 Miami defenders.

  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    The t/o would have been worse if Miami hadn't deflected so many out of bounds. Take the win but Miami looked to be a tired team esp Bosh and Lebron in the end. Rox have been on the end of these like Miami, so all you can do is take care of business.

  • screwston713 says 6 months ago

    I think it was a solid performance.. A MAJOR concern is going to be Jeremy Lin and D-Mo aka Donut. Unreliable at their best it is just a gamble. I for one would like to see Caanan get some PT over Lin. That being said our rotation is getting pretty solid and Coach only likes to stick to 9 ppl max. Casspi has been shooting well but that is all he has. It was hard to watch J Lin and Donut play last night....other than that Red94 - spot on.

    If P Bev aka the kremlin gremlin plays like he did last night there is no limit to what we can achieve the playoffs. His intensity w Hamilton on D can solidify us as straight up ballas. Bring us back to '93-'95. Kid has skill.

  • majik19 says 6 months ago

    One thing I want to say about last night's victory: We would have won by double figures easily if it wasn't for the dumb turnovers. So many unforced errors (many by Harden, though he played a pretty good game). If we don't clean those up, we will struggle against tighter postseason defenses.

    That being said, I hope it gave us some great tape about how to be more careful about passes against teams with long-armed defenders.

    Overall, pretty exciting game and a great win for the rockets.

  • Steven says 6 months ago Nice win. But I can't say not to worry about certain losses, because if the unfairness that is built into the NBA schedule on an individual night, and then say that this is a great win. Anytime you can beat the defending champions, it is a good night, but the Heat were on the back end of a back-to-back. Lets see what happens the 16th in Miami.
  • Bigtkirk says 6 months ago

    Good balance from the starting unit in this one. Nice to see Jones respond to the challenge well -- he has been struggling. Reserves need to step up tonight in Orlando.

  • redfaithful says 6 months ago

    Really like the new rotation, and your comments on it. Essentially, it's two Cs, two PFs, and a 1-1.5-2-2.5-3 at the wing in Beverley-Lin-Harden-Hamilton-Parsons.

    Now it's up to the coaching staff to find how the non-starter units should play together, as many combinations are rather new (Asik been injured and Hamilton just arriving).